Miami Dolphins

Dolphins linebackers vs. the pass? Not a fair fight

Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard on Sunday became the latest player to victimize the Dolphins’ linebackers in pass coverage.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard on Sunday became the latest player to victimize the Dolphins’ linebackers in pass coverage. Getty Images

The Dolphins linebackers have been exploited in pass coverage for years, and the problem seems particularly acute during the past month.

According to Pro Football Focus, of the 110 passes thrown with Miami’s linebackers in coverage this season, 87 have been completed for 862 yards. That’s a 79 percent completion rate and a 9.9 yard average per catch.

Much of the damage has been done by running backs and tight ends.

Kiko Alonso allowed 10 of 11 passes thrown against him to be caught for 138 yards in Sunday’s loss to Tampa Bay. For the season, Alonso has permitted completions on 48 of 59 passes for 523 yards and three touchdowns. Those 48 completions are second-most among all 4-3 outside linebackers.

Lawrence Timmons has allowed 29 of 39 passes thrown against him to be caught for 244 yards and two touchdowns, with a 107.2 passer rating in his coverage area.

Mike Hull, who played early in the season when Timmons went AWOL and was suspended for a game, has allowed all nine throws against him to be caught for 91 yards.

Chase Allen, who started at middle linebacker on Sunday, has allowed one of two passes to be caught for four yards.

Stephone Anthony, the September trade acquisition who played his first 12 defensive snaps as a Dolphin on Sunday, didn’t permit a completion on one target before leaving with a knee injury.

Linebackers are typically going to allow a higher completion percentage than cornerbacks because linebackers are often in coverage on shorter throws to tight ends and backs. But Dolphins coaches have said their coverage on tight ends hasn’t been nearly tight enough.

Allen, who replaced released Rey Maualuga at middle linebacker, played 30 of Miami’s 66 defensive snaps, and coach Adam Gase declined to say whether he would remain the starter. He left Sunday’s game briefly to be checked for a concussion but was cleared and returned to the game.

“He did good; he’s a reliable guy,” Gase said.


Playing his second game since returning from an eight-game NFL suspension, safety T.J. McDonald was the Dolphins’ highest-graded player Sunday in PFF’s evaluations and third-highest among all safeties this past weekend.

“His range always is going to help us,” Gase said. “He can cover a lot of ground.”

• Gase said he isn’t sure of the severity of injuries to right guard Jermon Bushrod (foot) and Anthony (knee). Center Mike Pouncey said Bushrod was “getting around really well Monday.” But Bushrod’s status for Sunday’s game at New England is in serious question.

Bushrod played 33 snaps before leaving Sunday; Jesse Davis moved from right tackle to right guard and Sam Young stepped in at right tackle.

• The Dolphins released running back De’Veon Smith, who was promoted from the practice squad on Saturday when Maualuga was released. Smith was inactive for Sunday’s game.

Kenny Stills’ 180 receiving yards Sunday were the most by a Dolphin since Brian Hartline had a team-record 253 receiving yards at Arizona in September of 2012.

Stills’ 25.7 yards per reception Sunday is the fourth-best mark in a single game in Dolphins history. Nat Moore owns that team record; he averaged 30 yards per catch in a 1981 game against the Jets.


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